Following several months of record-setting sales in the United States, we imagine the vibe at Hyundai’s American headquarters is pretty celebratory. After all, the Korean brand is currently churning out compelling and distinctive new or updated models at a rapid pace, with the redesigned 2022 Hyundai Tucson the latest example of its impressive execution and edgy designs.
Despite the outgoing Tucson’s dowdy looks, that compact crossover was Hyundai’s bestselling model worldwide. Its replacement builds on that momentum by continuing to lead the company’s U.S. sales, suggesting the comparatively bold appearance of the latest model is enticing more customers than it’s offending. Admittedly, we were skeptical after our first peek at its radical design’s jutting surfaces and sharp edges. Thankfully, the new Tucson is prettier in person than it is in photos. During our time with a range-topping Limited model, we regularly found ourselves admiring its dazzling daytime running lights, which are disguised by the grille’s mirror-like surface and create a futuristic face when lit.
The Tucson’s extroverted exterior is complemented by an elegant interior that’s particularly posh on the Limited trim. Fancy flourishes such as ambient lighting, leather-trimmed seats, and chic fabric on the upper dash and doors are standard, and Hyundai’s terrific fit and finish could fool some Genesis or Lexus owners. The Tucson Limited also brings model-exclusive features, including a unique center-console layout with a push-button shifter and a piano-black center stack housing a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system. We just wish the touch-sensitive climate controls featured some haptic feedback or distinguishing indentations, which would make them easier to activate without taking your eyes off the road. Lower-level SE and SEL models make do with an 8.0-inch touchscreen yet feature pleasingly tactile volume and tuning switches and knobs for the heating and cooling system. As with some other Hyundai models, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability are included, although the latter oddly requires a wired connection with the larger of the two touchscreens.
Along with slightly taller and wider dimensions, the new Tucson is 6.1 inches longer from stem to stern (182.3 inches overall) and boasts an extra 3.4 inches between its axles, most of which translates to its 41.3 inches of rear-seat legroom. For context, that makes the Hyundai’s rear-seat space roomier than the similarly sized Honda CR-V’s and the longer Volkswagen Tiguan’s. Even with a panoramic sunroof, the Tucson’s back seat feels huge and will accommodate two adults on long road trips. Too bad the top-tier Limited lacks a third climate-controlled zone, though, which is something even the new Mitsubishi Outlander offers. Still, the Tucson’s growth spurt adds 7 cubic feet of cargo volume behind its 60/40-split folding second-row bench for a total of 39 cubes. Folding the back seat flat almost doubles the available storage area to 80 cubic feet—18 more than its predecessor. Again, the Tucson trumps the CR-V and Tiguan in both measurements.
Unfortunately, our fondness for the new Tucson diminishes when our right foot gets involved. Its standard 187-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder simply didn’t have the vigor to move our 3695-pound, all-wheel-drive test vehicle with the desired oomph. The run to 60 mph takes 8.8 seconds (0.5 second slower than the previous generation), but passing maneuvers from 50 to 70 mph are 0.4 second quicker, requiring 6.0 seconds of wide-open throttle. Neither time is terrible, but rivals such as the turbocharged CR-V and even the non-turbo Mazda CX-5 are considerably quicker. While we applaud Hyundai for continuing to employ a traditional torque-converter automatic instead of a syrupy continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), the partnership between the Tucson’s engine and eight-speed transmission isn’t always copacetic, in part due to the four-banger’s 178 pound-feet of torque arriving at a rather high 4000 rpm. Ascending moderate grades often involves downshifts even with a single passenger aboard, which makes us wonder how it’d fare when loaded down with people and cargo or when maxing out its 2000-pound tow rating.
On the road, Hyundai’s improved cabin insulation effectively isolates passengers from the outside world. The Tucson’s ride feels appropriately pliant and composed for a compact ute. While its suspension fidgeted over Michigan’s crumbliest roads, the Limited’s 19-inch wheels and Michelin Primacy A/S tires didn’t contribute to any extra noise or ride harshness, and they returned a decent 0.83 g of skidpad grip. Twirling the steering wheel doesn’t engage the senses much, but the tiller’s progressive weighting strikes a nice balance between relaxed and responsive. Standing on the brake pedal at 70 mph brings the Tucson to a halt in an unremarkable but competitive 178 feet.
Carrying an as-tested price of $37,890, our Tucson Limited painted in Calypso Red for $400 was undeniably attractive and sophisticated, albeit a bit pricey considering the lazy acceleration from its 2.5-liter engine. For similar money, you can get a turbocharged 250 horsepower from a CX-5 Signature or a Ford Bronco Sport. But given the new Tucson’s impressive design and packaging, plus the inclusion of Hyundai’s unbeatable warranty, perhaps the even more compelling alternative is the Tucson’s hybrid model with its 226-hp powertrain, standard all-wheel drive, and an EPA combined rating of 37 mpg versus our example’s 26 mpg. (A plug-in hybrid will join the lineup later this year.) That the hybrid starts at $30,235 and even the top Limited version costs less than a grand more than our test car bolsters the new Tucson’s case as a top player in its segment, a fact that surely will give the folks at Hyundai more reason to celebrate.
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